For many Americans, “takeout” is synonymous with their favorite Chinese restaurant–and with good reason! Chinese food offers rich, tangy meals that have stolen our hearts and space in the fridge. However, if you look into traditional Chinese food, you will see that your favorite dishes are nowhere to be found. If you look deeper, you will find arguments that Chinese American food shouldn’t count as Chinese food at all. Does this mean that those who enjoy American Chinese foods are (gasp) foodie frauds? Absolutely not.
Sharing Cultural Cuisines? Make it Tso.
Yes, you won’t find the ingredients of a Panda Express in a restaurant in China. However, that doesn’t mean we should value Chinese American food any less. The beauty of cooking is that it is meant to be shared, molded, and, sometimes, turned into something entirely new that brings a smile to our faces at mealtime. As mentioned by Deanna Ting in her article discussing why Chinese American food is its own respected cuisine, “We’re simply taking what our grandparents and great grandparents did, making it our own, and inviting others to do the same.”
One Cup of Inspiration, Comin’ Up!
When we see that orange chicken originated in Hawaii or that crab rangoons are primarily an American dish, it’s easy to think of Chinese American food as inauthentic. However, the dishes brought over by Chinese immigrants and customized by foodies around the country allow us to take baby steps towards cuisines native to China and embrace the country’s many regional dishes. Chinese American food, then, is a respected cuisine in its own right. If traditional Chinese dishes are a door, then Chinese American food can be considered the doorknob that many reach for when they are ready to explore.
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